Americans Are Bailing Out on Banks Too Big to Care; Credit Unions, Partnership and State-Run Banks Offer Alternatives

When Bank of America and Wells Fargo tried to foist off expensive new debit card fees to customers earlier this year, the move touched off a consumer revolt that yielded 650,000 new accounts and infused some $4.5 billion in new business for credit unions in the space of a month. It also added momentum to the public banking movement, a grass roots effort encouraging states to consider laws that encourage publicly-owned banks that could revive community banks and open up the spigot for affordable and reliable small business and consumer credit. Earlier this year, the big banks had wanted to recoup expected “losses” they would experience under new consumer protection regulations contained in the Dodd Frank law that limited what they could charge merchants for using credit and debit cards. They also tried to create a consumer push back against the legislation. Their plan didn’t work. According to consumer reports, bank customers are already saddled with an average of $327 a year in “hidden fees” just for checking accounts from the big banks and the new fees felt like salt in a wound. Combined with the bad publicity banks have earned with high-handed foreclosure practices and revelations about slap dash record keeping, America’s big banks appear to be veritable billboards for arrogance. The unintended consequence of the planned fees was a stampede of customers who moved their accounts to credit unions. The Federal Reserve says 30 huge companies dominate the banking and finance landscape and have for the past decade. These are the same companies that preyed on hapless homeowners; marketed high risk loans to individuals and small businesses...

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